I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I know as many people taking their relationships to the next level (either by getting engaged or married) as I know people ending their long-term relationships. I don’t think either is better than the other. To me, it’s about the choices people feel necessary to make. It’s about the choices that are the best for who they are.
Barbara Slate‘s witty and insightful Getting Married and Other Mistakes (Other Press, 2012) is all about a woman making the best choices for herself. Our narrator, wedding photographer Jo Hudson, has just had her husband leave her for another woman. As she tries to make sense of her current situation, she reflects on other choices — mistakes — she’s made in her life and with men, including listening to both her mother and her friends rather than herself.
Slate seems very much inspired by pop art, with close-ups of faces filling entire pages. Colors are almost all bright and primary — pure whites, bright greens, deep blacks and bright red — and fill large expanses of her open artwork. The multiple flashbacks are in black and white (although with Jo’s red hair and lips providing a pop of color) and these alternating elements give the book an interesting pace.
Slate’s cartoony and loose artwork has an unrefined quality at times, but it works for the story she’s telling here. Jo, with her short, spiky hair bears a clear resemblance to Slate herself, and while I wouldn’t necessary assume this is autobiographical, it’s clearly personal. Slate’s style gives this book a playful intimacy. It feels like a book your best friend would do.
But it’s a very internal story. While other characters do show up, like Jo’s friends, loves, mother and therapists, we’re always in Jo’s head, even when we’re observing her. Given that this story is about a woman discovering her own voice and what she wants, that’s appropriate, but Jo’s relentless focus on herself isn’t always the most exciting. Still Slate’s humor and honesty keeps the book dynamic and surprising.
In the end, Getting Married and Other Mistakes isn’t necessarily about making mistakes so much as it is from learning from them. Through Slate’s whimsy and wisdom, Jo found out who she was and who she wanted to be. That’s not a mistake at all.